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robotics

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robotics

Aging research projects focus on the same-old, same-old

The more tech is commercialized, the more researchers ignore it. It’s so interesting and fun to read about research that is going to help seniors, don’t you think? Reporters love to write it, readers love to read it.  Someday, they say and readers agree, there will be tech that will finally help us age in our own homes. A recent AARP Bulletin offered up an article about living laboratory research into ‘possibilities’ for improving our capabilities for independent living/aka aging in place. We can feel good that work goes on at Orcatech, at Mayo Clinic, and MIT's Age Lab.  And many others have researched the same exact categories previously, as noted in 2008 in one of the very first blogs on this site. As always, the researchers interviewed offered no observations about whether there were commercial versions that were viable for consumers, and really, no acknowledgement of commercial vendors at all. Guess that’s not the point of research.

Yo Robot! How about those senior housing applications?

Personal service robots are out and about. So we’ve been talking about personal care robots for a long time – including the social engagement use of Paro the robotic seal, studied and re-studied at MIT. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran an article about a rented robot ($3000) to liven up a party.  Looking like a vacuum cleaner extension with eyes, it roved around a wedding on Segway-like wheels, presenting a movable and real-time image of an the groom’s 82-year-old mother who was physically unable to attend. Finally, a viable example of a robot in the service of an older adult!

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Tech solutions that overwhelm the problem

When you read about tech and older adults, ask if it is appropriate to the task. Does it fit the problem being addressed? Do caregiving robots make sense? Is the cost such that everyone except the buyers would raise their eyebrows? Everyone admires a pioneer, the organization that will respond to the idea and the sales pitch for putting a few $6000 robots into the homes of children recovering from surgery, for example, so that the children won’t have to come to the hospital for the doctor to see how their recovery is progressing. Apparently no one thought to give the family a Netbook with camera, which would accomplish the same video viewing purpose – for $250.

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